New storage facilities for Lodges and Chapters at Grand Lodge are a big improvement, says Stuart Whitehead
Since 1933, when Freemasons’ Hall was completed, each Lodge and Chapter which uses the facilities have had their regalia and equipment stored in individual lockers. However, due to the requirements of health and safety (H & S) legislation, UGLE have undertaken a review of current working practices.
At present, Lodges and Chapters have their regalia and equipment stored in metal and wooden lockers which are in units up to 15 feet high. H & S requirement would these days state that fork lift trucks or specialised hydraulic equipment would have to be used to remove the locker and trays from the higher units when the UGLE porters transport each tray to the designated Lodge or Chapter room.
Another problem the change of storage system encountered was the security aspect, because at present the individual Lodge and Chapter regalia and equipment, although stored in locked lockers in individual trays, over the years a number of these lockers have had their locks broken and not replaced.
As well as the trays being transported by the porter staff to each Lodge or Chapter room, these trays are left open and unattended for some time, while specific items are often 'borrowed' for a specific ceremony and not returned.
The new system that will replace the current practices, provides adequate security for each Lodge and Chapter and conforms to the H & S needs for UGLE porters to undertake their specific role. Each Lodge or Chapter will have their own metal drawer appropriately labelled, with their regalia sealed within a locked metal lid.
Three keys will be issued to the Secretary or Scribe, and these will be separately numbered with no duplication for other drawers. The individual drawer will be kept in a cabinet containing six drawers, which conforms to the H & S regulations as it will only be just over six feet high. These cabinets will be stored in a locked room environment with access only allowed to UGLE porter and security team. A new cabinet and drawers will be on display in the ante-room of Lodge Room No. 1 for Brethren to view.
This current review has also meant that a new racking system will be installed for the storage of banners, which will all be hung from rails. This was not the case previously, as several banners used to be rolled for storage, but this new method of hanging the banners will ensure longer life and less chance of damage to the delicate materials from which several of them are made.
Unfortunately, the cost of the Lodge drawers is being increased from £25 to £40 per annum. These are double the size of the Chapter drawers, which remain at the existing charge of £25 per annum. Likewise, the banner cost remains the same as before at £25. These charges for storage in central London are still very cheap, but with the added security for Lodges and Chapters.
The Lodge Liaison team, in particular John Vazquez, will be undertaking a role during the duration of the installation of this project and will be available on 020 7395 9283 to answer any queries. This will ensure that any disruption is kept to a minimum, and he will liaise with Lodges and Chapters regarding the issuing of keys by the UGLE security team. It is envisaged that this new format for Lodge and Chapter storage will last well into the 22nd century, providing an efficient and secure service to the users of the facilities at Freemasons’ Hall.
Stuart Whitehead is Facilities Manager at Grand Lodge